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Source: Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR)
31 March 2003


Division for Palestinian Rights

Chronological Review of Events Relating to the
Question of Palestine

MONTHLY MEDIA MONITORING REVIEW

March 2003


1

An 11-year-old Palestinian girl was fatally wounded in the head reportedly by IDF gunfire, while sitting in the classroom of an UNRWA school in the Al-Nimsawi neighbourhood of Khan Yunis. Outside the school, three other Palestinian youths were moderately injured by heavy machine-gun fire from an IDF observation post at the nearby “Gush Katif” settlement block. An IDF spokesman said he had no knowledge of bullets hitting an UNRWA school, but he said troops had spotted several suspicious Palestinians in an out-of-bounds area close to where the Israeli Border Police worked on the explosive device found near the fence. “They were standing near several abandoned structures from where shooting has often been carried out, so the force fired towards them, but no hit was registered,” the spokesman said, admitting that the houses of Khan Yunis were close to the site. An IDF statement said that “during the course of the operation, a terrorist cell infiltrated a local school and attacked IDF forces with gunshots and bombs.” UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen, visiting later Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City where the girl had been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit as clinically dead, condemned the targeting of UNRWA educational and medical institutions, particularly when one of its primary schools had been attacked and one of its pupils critically wounded. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz)

Late in the day, about 30 IDF tanks and bulldozers supported by attack helicopters moved more than 1km into the Khan Yunis refugee camp, in the southern Gaza Strip, prompting armed confrontations with Palestinians. Two Palestinians were killed – a 23-year-old man who appeared to be a gunman and a 54-year-old man found shot dead in his apartment – and 40 wounded, including seven inside a hospital compound. An IDF spokesman said the operation was launched after two Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded when their APC smashed into the wall of a school after driving over an explosive device, while an IDF statement said the operation was launched in response to the killing of one of its soldiers on 23 February by a Palestinian sniper and to the “recent rise in shooting attacks against IDF forces and Israeli communities in the Gaza Strip.” The Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, claimed responsibility for the explosion in a statement received by AFP in Gaza City, saying the bomb weighed more than 100 kg. Witnesses said the tanks and the bulldozers went to the Al-Nimsawi neighbourhood south of the refugee camp and demolished the fence of Nasser hospital between the camp and Khan Yunis, with one tank then entering the hospital yard and stationing there. During the incursion, which ended in the morning, the IDF blew up an eight-storey building, which it said had been used by snipers to shoot at Israeli targets on 14 occasions during the past four months. Palestinian security sources said the 54 residents of the building had received very short notice to evacuate the building and the troops had used four of them as human shields, as they were planting the explosives. Several other houses were also damaged. Later in the day, four Palestinian youths were wounded, two of them critically, when they visited the wreckage and Israeli soldiers opened fire on them, Palestinian medical sources said. According to other reports, the shooting took place during the funeral of the two men killed earlier. One of the wounded, a 9-year-old boy, died from his wounds a few hours later. The IDF denied the reports that its troops had killed the boy. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Chairman Arafat had called a PLO leadership meeting to discuss the selection of a prime minister. “The Central Council will meet from March 8 to 12 and then the parliament will convene to discuss the nomination of a Prime Minister,” Nabil Abu Rudeineh told AFP. (AFP)

Addressing the Arab League Summit at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, via video link from his Ramallah HQ, Chairman Arafat said the Israeli Government was the prime inciter of a war against Iraq, considering it part of the war against the Palestinian people “and against the entire Arab nation from the sea to the Gulf,” and intending “to use the war against Iraq to escalate its military actions against the Palestinian people, expand settlements, undermine the Palestinian Authority and transfer the Palestinians under the threat of weapons.” (DPA)

2

While visiting IDF troops in Nablus, Israel's Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said: “In the Gaza Strip, we are going to intensify the pressure on Hamas, as we have done in the past weeks, and we are going to do the same thing in the West Bank.” “Our goal is to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, once the Palestinian leadership is changed and terrorism ends,” Gen. Mofaz told Israel Public Radio, adding: “I think it will be possible to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table in 2003 once these conditions are met.” Mr. Mofaz also spoke to high school students in the “Ma’ale Adumim” settlement, the largest one in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, located 2km east of Jerusalem, saying he supported territorial continuity between Jerusalem and “Ma’ale Adumim,” which would entail annexing large swaths of Palestinian land. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

As the new Israeli Government took office, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom pledged “to take advantage of every opportunity for peace with the Palestinians.” (Reuters)

The High Court of Justice of Israel rejected an appeal brought by a group called “A Fence for Life” that would force the Israeli Government to build a security fence around the entire country and set a specific timetable. Justice Aharon Barak said that the Government’s decision to build a fence and its timetable was sufficient and there was no reason for the court to intervene. (Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

3

IDF troops stormed the Bureij and Nuseirat refugee camps, located on both sides of the main Gaza road in the central Gaza Strip, in an operation that reportedly centred on the house of Mohammed Taha, one of the original political leaders of Hamas when it was founded in 1987. Witnesses said undercover troops, in white jeeps that resembled those used by Palestinian security forces and in yellow Mercedes cars that looked like local taxis, moved into the Bureij camp, while tanks operated outside as a diversion, and took over the house. The two columns of about 20 armoured vehicles each then entered Bureij from the north via the “Netzarim” settlement and from the south via the “Kfar Darom” settlement. Mr. Taha was wounded and arrested, along with his sons, all senior Hamas activists. Eight Palestinians were killed in the operation, including a 33-year-old woman, nine months pregnant, killed by falling debris when the IDF blew up a militant’s house, a 13-year-old boy killed by gunfire, and a policeman. At least 40 Palestinians were wounded. Israeli troops demolished Mr. Taha’s house, damaging a nearby mosque in the process. Three other Palestinian houses were demolished, and ten more damaged. Some of the destroyed houses reportedly belonged to Islamic Jihad members, while others may have collapsed due to demolitions nearby. Hours after the Bureij operation, three Qassam rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip, with one landing at a highway junction near Prime Minister Sharon’s ranch and another in the nearby Israeli town of Sderot. No one was injured, but six people were treated for shock. (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

The IDF dynamited two houses in the village of Qaffen, north of Tulkarm, reportedly belonging to a local leader of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing. The IDF later confirmed the information, saying the militant had assisted a suicide bomber who had killed 29 Israeli civilians in a hotel in Netanya in northern Israel on 27 March 2002.(AFP, www.idf.il)

The IDF launched a major operation in the Nablus "casbah". According to reports, some 20 tanks and numerous jeeps took up positions near the entrance to the old town, as troops took control of several high-rise buildings, imposed a curfew in the sector, firing warning shots, and started search operations, encountering no armed resistance. One Palestinian youth was killed and two were injured when the troops fired at stone-throwers. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

A 23-year-old Palestinian died in Nablus, hours after being shot by Israeli troops. Palestinian medical and security sources said Mohammed Issa, from Salem village near Nablus, was shot on his way to Ramallah, where he worked as a house painter. He was wounded in the upper leg and kept handcuffed by the army for three hours before being transferred to Rafidia hospital in Nablus, where he died 15 minutes later. According to an IDF spokesman, only 25 minutes had elapsed between the time the man had been shot and the arrival of a Red Crescent ambulance, and in the meantime the wounded man had been given first aid on the scene. The spokesman said Mr. Issa had been spotted trying to leave Nablus, under complete closure at the time, and had tried to run away when the soldiers attempted to handcuff him; after he failed to stop following a warning shot, the soldiers had shot him in the leg and called for a Palestinian ambulance to take him back into Nablus. (AFP)

A Palestinian teenager was critically wounded by gunfire from an Israeli tank, as he threw stones with other youths in Tulkarm, Palestinian security and medical sources said. Ahmed Al-Hamashi, 15, was hit in the head and one of his fellow stone-throwers was moderately injured. The tank and another armoured vehicle were patrolling Tulkarm at the time. (AFP)

Senior Palestinian officials were in South Africa for advice on drawing up a constitution, with PA Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Nabil Shaath scheduled to meet South Africa’s Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. The visit would also include talks between the Palestinian delegation and officials who helped draft South Africa’s post-apartheid Constitution, representatives from the country’s Constitutional Court and its Human Rights Commission. (DPA)

Chairman Arafat met Quartet representatives, including EU Special Envoy Miguel Moratinos, to discuss the appointment of a Prime Minister. (AP, Ha’aretz)

The Israeli Internal Security Minister asked a court to reject the request by the Al-Quds Culture and Heritage Association to reopen its offices. (Ha’aretz)

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters that the United States accepted Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism and “continue[d] to be seriously concerned about civilian casualties”, urging the Israeli Government to take all appropriate precautions to prevent the death and injury of innocent civilians and damage to civilian and humanitarian infrastructure. He added that the US was “also deeply concerned at the increasing Israeli use over the past few months of demolitions and the civilian deaths that have resulted from this practice.” “The demolition of civilian structures deprives Palestinians of shelter and the ability to peacefully earn a livelihood, exacerbates the humanitarian situation inside the Palestinian areas and makes more difficult the critical challenge of bringing an end to violence and a restoration of calm,” Mr. Boucher noted, adding that US officials were in touch with both Israelis and Palestinians to urge them to calm the situation and prevent further bloodshed. (AFP, DPA)

A Russian Foreign Ministry statement “call[ed] on Israel to refrain from large-scale raids with heavy military hardware and on the Palestinian administration to take the most effective steps possible to stop extremists’ anti-Israeli attacks.” “Fundamentally there is no doubt about the need for a decisive action against terrorism but when disproportionate actions lead to tragic consequences, killing civilians, innocent people, they have the opposite effect,” the statement said. (AFP)

In an interview published in Al-Quds,PA Interior Minister Hani Al-Hassan said the dialogue between Fatah and Hamas on the Palestinian leadership’s call for a halt to attacks on Israelis had “reached its limit” and could not “go on endlessly.” He added that he would seek to revive the dialogue, which involved all Palestinian factions including the main militant groups. Mr. Al-Hassan said a Hamas delegation had recently met with European envoys in Beirut to discuss the Cairo negotiations among the Palestinian factions and talks were continuing between Hamas leaders and aides of the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Javier Solana. “I found out that Hamas is using moderate language with the Europeans. I hope this will be the same in our dialogue with Hamas,” the Minister said, adding that as regards the Fatah-affiliated Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the group had now “committed itself not to carry out operations against civilians inside” Israel. He reiterated the Palestinian leadership’s opposition to attacks against civilians but said that “resistance would continue as long as the occupation is present.” He added that the proposed moratorium on all military operations could not be implemented by the Palestinian side without Israel “stopping its policy of assassinations and destruction, adopting the Mideast Quartet’s Road Map, coming back to the negotiating table and withdrawing from Palestinian cities.” Related to this, speaking after a meeting with Chairman Arafat, EU Middle East envoy Miguel Moratinos said: “The Cairo talks did not totally fail; we will continue to get all the Palestinian groups and factions to adopt a comprehensive ceasefire.” (AFP)

The IDF lifted a prohibition on Palestinians aged 15 to 35 travelling abroad, which had been put in place after a Tel Aviv bombing in January 2003. (Ha’aretz)

IDF soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian in the village of Tel, west of Nablus, after the man had refused to stop at a number of checkpoints with his car. (The Jerusalem Post)

4

Undercover Israeli troops reportedly raided a popular Internet cafe in Jenin, searching for a wanted man. The man, who was inside, fired at troops, lightly wounding two border policemen, before being wounded himself and arrested. A 18-year-old Palestinian man was killed during the incident, while, according to the IDF, he was trying to throw a Molotov cocktail at the soldiers. Six other Palestinians were injured. The dead youth and four of the Palestinians injured were not militants, Palestinian witnesses said, adding that troops in jeeps, tanks and other armoured vehicles had followed the undercover unit into the district and imposed a curfew. The IDF reported a total of 45 arrests of Palestinians around the West Bank over the previous 24 hours. The arrests had taken place in Nablus, Ramallah, Jenin, and in the village of Tabuah, west of Hebron. In Nablus, IDF troops had arrested five wanted Palestinians in the city’s "casbah", two of them PFLP members allegedly planning to carry out a suicide bombing. (AP, DPA , Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Armed Israeli settlers opened fire on Palestinian stone-throwers in a village near Nablus, seriously wounding a 14-year-old boy in the stomach, Palestinian medics and officials said. The boy was in serious condition in a Nablus hospital after the clash, which village officials said followed attacks on several Palestinian homes in the area the previous night by settlers from the nearby settlement of “Eli.” Israeli police said the settlers had fired at the Palestinians after the latter threw stones at their car. (DPA, Reuters)

An elderly Bedouin was killed by IDF gunfire near the “Netzarim” settlement in the Gaza Strip. An IDF spokeswoman said a Palestinian had been spotted riding a donkey south-west of “Netzarim,” in an area in which Palestinian movement was prohibited. Troops had fired at him, and his body had been returned to the Palestinians, she said, adding that the incident was under investigation. Palestinian sources identified the dead man as Abdullah Al-Ashab, 85, a shepherd from the village of Al-Mughraqa, adjacent to the “Netzarim” settlement. They said the man lived about 500 metres from the settlement and was returning home when he was shot. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

A Palestinian was shot dead in Tulkarm by troops who opened fire on protesters throwing rocks at IDF tanks, witnesses and hospital officials said, adding that the killed man who was killed was a bystander. The IDF said he was a gunman. (Ha’aretz, Reuters)

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw expressed “deep concern” at the number of civilian deaths among Palestinians in recent days. Citing the death of a pregnant woman on 1 March, Mr. Staw said: “The indiscriminate use of force by the Israel Defence Forces only fuels the cycle of violence, denying both Israelis and Palestinians the security they deserve,” and noted that Israel had to abide by international law when exercising its right to protect its citizens. The UK Ambassador to Israel was expected to take up the case with the Israeli authorities. (AP, DPA, Reuters)

5

A Palestinian suicide bomber, allegedly a 21-year-old student and member of Hamas from Hebron, tore apart a packed Israeli bus in Haifa, killing at least 15 people and wounding 30. Hamas and the Islamic Jihad said the attack was a response to the Israeli operations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The PA issued a statement condemning the attack. (AFP, DPA, Reuters, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post)

The following statement was issued by the Spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

(UN Press Release SG/SM/8622 of 5 March 2003)

According to the White House spokesman, President Bush condemned the suicide bomb attack in Haifa “in the strongest terms” and said he “strongly stood with the people of Israel in fighting terrorism.” “The message to the terrorists is their efforts will not be successful. We will continue to pursue the path of peace in the Middle East, and he [President Bush] urges all to condemn today’s attack,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Referring to the suicide bombing in Haifa, Deputy Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Yevgeny Voronin said in a statement that Russia “resolutely condemns this inhumane act.” He added that the attack was “planned and carried out by those who do not share the real interests of the Palestinian people, whose legitimate aspirations are to create their own State.” While calling on the Palestinian leadership to make further attempts to prevent suicide attacks, Mr. Voronin also called on Israel to show “restraint” and noted that “[o]nly the path of dialogue and making decisions of compromise, even if they are sometimes hurtful, can cut short the tragic list of victims.” Russia also urged the two sides to open talks on the Quartet peace plan. (AFP)

In a written statement, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he “utterly condemn[ed] the brutal terrorist attack on bus number 37 in Haifa.” “There is no justification for attacks on innocent civilians. Attacks like these will not help the Palestinian cause. Once again I urge all parties to do everything they can to prevent further bloodshed on both sides,” he said. A spokesman for Prime Minister Blair said he condemned “absolutely” what had happened and called on all sides to do what they can to break the cycle of violence, because it is only through engagement that we can realize the vision everyone wants to see. (AFP)

Following the suicide bombing in Haifa, the Israeli political-security cabinet approved a defence establishment request to carry out more operations against the terror structure in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Israel Radio reported. The cabinet, meeting for the first time, also decided to impose a full closure on the West Bank until 9 March, the radio said. Army Radio reported that Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom requested that the army delay responding to the Haifa attack for 24 hours, so that the pictures of the bombing would be seen in the world media, but Prime Minister Sharon rejected the request. The IDF later began operations in the Gaza Strip refugee camp of Jabalya. Before the cabinet meeting, security and government sources had said there was no intention to deviate from the existing policy in the Occupied Territory and launch a “showcase” retaliation. The IDF would continue with its partial occupation of the West Bank and incursions in the Gaza Strip. (Ha’aretz)

Israeli troops arrested 20 Palestinians throughout the West Bank and demolished the home of an Islamic militant in Nablus who had carried out a suicide bombing in August 2001, the IDF said. Palestinian witnesses said troops had entered Qalqilya and Jericho, as well as villages outside of Bethlehem, to carry out the arrests. In the Gaza Strip refugee camp of Rafah, a second home was bulldozed by Israeli troops, leaving 15 people homeless, Palestinian witnesses said. The IDF said the building was abandoned and used by gunmen as a shelter. (AFP, Reuters)

In a statement issued at the end of their extraordinary Summit in Doha, the leaders of the States members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) said: “The international community, particularly the Quartet, must act quickly to halt Israel’s aggression against the Palestinians.” The statement also called on the United Nations to provide the Palestinian people with international protection. Underscoring “the importance of Jerusalem” for the world’s Muslims, the statement expressed support for the Palestinians and “their legitimate leadership headed by ... Arafat” in their struggle to regain their rights. It called for “allocating urgent financial aid” to the Palestinian Authority to help it meet “urgent needs arising from the Israeli occupation.” In a recorded video message to the Summit, Chairman Arafat had earlier presented the deteriorating situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and had accused the Israeli Government of “seeking to torpedo the peace process.” He had called on the Summit “to step up material and political support” to the Palestinians and had urged the OIC members to work with the broader international community “to put an end to the destructive war against the Palestinian people and their leaders and to relaunch the search for peace.” The Summit host, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani of Qatar, had voiced “alarm” at the worsening situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and regretted Chairman Arafat’s absence from the gathering. (AFP)

A European Union statement released in Amman said the EU had approved €15 million in aid for Palestinian refugees. The funds would be handed over to UNRWA, which would in turn distribute both food aid and cash. The assistance would target 337,500 refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. The EU said the latest aid was aimed at “contributing to the creation of stable social living conditions for Palestinian refugees, by guaranteeing minimal food security requirements for the most vulnerable” ones. The assistance specifically provided some “4,000 metric tonnes of food aid and a cash subsidy worth 40 dollars (37 euros) per person, per year that targets special hardship cases,” the statement said. (AFP)

A joint statement on Iraq, adopted in Paris by the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of France, Germany and Russia, Messrs. de Villepin, Fischer and Ivanov respectively, contained the following reference to the Middle East:

For the full text see UN doc. S/2003/253 of 5 March 2003)

At a joint press conference, the World Bank Director for the West Bank and Gaza Nigel Roberts and the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Terje Rød-Larsen presented the findings of two major new economic reports for the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Both said that the Palestinian economy could only be saved by a political solution. Mr. Rød-Larsen cautioned, however, that until there was a political breakthrough, “donors need[ed] to sustain their commitment to the welfare of the Palestinian people.” He cited Israel’s closure of the Occupied Palestinian Territory as the main reason why Palestinians’ incomes had dropped by an average of nearly 50 per cent, 50 per cent of workers were unemployed and 60 per cent lived below the poverty line, according to the reports. Mr. Roberts said that a low estimate of US$1.1 billion was believed needed to support Palestinian needs, but that $700 million had been secured. The World Bank estimated that physical damages from the conflict had reached $738 million by end of August 2002, while overall economic losses totalled $5.4 billion for the past two years. Mr. Roberts said the bulk of money from donor countries went towards helping pay the salaries of 125,000 civil servants in the PA. He said such payments were “a more efficient support than food aid and other poverty-tackling schemes” since the funds were re-injected into the local economy. Mr. Rød-Larsen said “the best way to address the humanitarian crisis was to give Palestinians the means to support themselves and manage their own lives,” adding that “donor assistance [was] a stop-gap measure to prevent a total economic collapse and humanitarian disaster.” According to the UN report, at least 1.9 million Palestinians had received food aid and other direct handouts. Malnutrition levels had risen to 13.3 per cent from negligible levels before the intifada. Child labour levels had also doubled to about 20 per cent. Mr. Rød-Larsen pointed to the Quartet Road Map as “the instrument that can cut through this vicious cycle [of violence] and restore hope on both sides.” Both Mr. Roberts and Mr. Rød-Larsen praised recent financial reforms by the PA, as well as Chairman Arafat’s upcoming appointment of a Prime Minister, but Mr. Rød-Larsen said the new Prime Minister would only be effective if he was “empowered and credible to the Palestinians, the international community and Israel.” Messrs. Roberts and Rød-Larsen also said they were concerned about the fall-out from a possible strike against Iraq, since it could lead to an even greater tightening of Israeli curfews and closures. They added they were in “intense discussions” with Israel to prevent the humanitarian crisis from getting even worse. According to a UN estimate, 530,000 Palestinians had been placed under daily curfews since the IDF had reoccupied all West Bank towns, except for Jericho, since June 2002. (AFP, UN News Centre,World Bank press release 2003/241/MNA)

6

In a raid on the Jabalya refugee camp, in the northern Gaza Strip, Israeli forces with armoured vehicles and backed by helicopter gunships reportedly killed at least 11 Palestinians and injured 140 others, 35 of them seriously. Eight of the deaths reportedly occurred when a tank round hit a crowd watching firemen hose down a shop set ablaze in the raid. Palestinians said the eight were unarmed civilians, including one man whose head was blown off. The IDF insisted it had done the utmost to avoid civilian casualties and said the tank shell had hit a man standing in an empty street aiming a rocket-propelled grenade launcher at troops as they withdrew from the area. An IDF statement later said “the great number of casualties resulted from the explosive charges that were detonated” inside the shop, not from an IDF shelling. “It is an act of revenge by the Israeli Government,” Palestinian Authority Minister and chief negotiator Saeb Erakat told Reuters,and urged the Quartet “to intervene immediately and directly to break the cycle of violence.” In an official statement the PA said: “ Israel, its Government and its army are escalating their aggression and committing another massacre against the Palestinians.” The IDF described the raid as “part of an ongoing war against terror and its infrastructures” and said troops had arrested a senior Hamas “terrorist,” demolished his house and seized a large cache of weapons and explosives. Brig.-Gen. Gadi Shamni, IDF Gaza Brigade Commander, said the Jabalya operation was not retribution for the Haifa bombing but a continuation of an offensive against militants in the area that began two weeks ago. The Israeli forces pulled out several hours later. (DPA, Reuters, www.idf.il)

The following statement was issued by the Spokesman for United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

(UN Press Release SG/SM/8625 of 6 March 2003)

Commenting on the Israeli raid on the Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters that there clearly “were a number of innocent Palestinians injured in the attack” and that it was “a source of concern for the President [Bush],” adding that “Israel suffered a terrible attack at the hands of terrorists at Haifa. Israel has a right to defend itself. But the President reminds Israel about [his view that] any actions they take must be done with an eye toward protecting innocent Palestinians.” (AFP, Reuters)

In response to the Israeli raid on the Jabalya refugee camp, the Greek European Union Presidency issued the following statement:

(http://www.eu2003.gr/en/articles/2003/3/6/2185/)

A Palestinian mother of 10 was shot dead in her backyard by the IDF troops as they moved into Jaba village near Jenin, Palestinian medical sources said. An IDF spokeswoman said troops had come under fire from gunmen in the nearby village of Sanur and “had returned fire in the direction of Jaba,” some 3 kilometres to the north. The army initially said Palestinian gunmen in Jaba had fired towards troops in the village, but that the soldiers had not returned fire. The spokeswoman had no knowledge of a Palestinian woman being shot dead in the area. Later, a 16-year-old Palestinian was shot dead in central Nablus as he was throwing stones at an Israeli patrol, Palestinian medical sources and witnesses said. In a separate incident, Israeli troops shot dead a Palestinian gunman who had opened fire on them outside the “Hamra” settlement in the northern West Bank. A 70-year-old Palestinian had also died earlier in the day from wounds sustained a month earlier when the IDF raided eastern Gaza City. (AFP)

In a predawn raid in Hebron, Israeli troops arrested the father and brother of Mahmoud Al-Qawasmeh, the Palestinian militant believed to have committed the Haifa suicide bombing the previous day, according to the media. No Palestinian organization claimed responsibility for the Haifa attack, but the IDF said Mr. Al-Qawasmeh, born in 1983, was a well-known Hamas member. (DPA)

According to media reports, Israeli troops killed an Islamic Jihad militant in a shootout in Bethlehem. (DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Israeli opposition leader and Labour Party Chairman Amram Mitzna said that one of the reasons for the continuation of terror attacks against Israeli civilians was the absence of a security fence that would constitute a real border between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (Ha’aretz)

Israeli journalist Amira Hass was awarded the UNESCO/Guillermo Camo World Press Freedom Prize for 2003, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura announced. The annual US$25,000 prize was awarded based on the recommendations of an independent jury of media professionals from around the world. Ms. Hass, a correspondent for Ha’aretz,was the first and only female Israeli journalist actually to live in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in Ramallah, where she has resided since 1997. “In spite of the restrictions imposed on her, as much by Israeli military authorities as by the Palestinian Authority, Ms. Hass has written without respite compassionate articles about the daily life and difficulties of the Palestinians,” Mr. Matsuura said from Paris, adding that she had shown outstanding professional commitment and independence, as well as personal courage, over the past decade. “If peace is to be established between Israelis and Palestinians it will be thanks to people like Ms. Hass, who are able to look at the facts and understand them,” he noted. The prize was to be awarded on 3 May 2003, at a ceremony to commemorate World Press Freedom Day in Kingston, Jamaica. (DPA, Ha’aretz, Palestine Media Centre,UNESCO press release No.2003-19)

7

Chairman Arafat informed the Fatah Central Committee in Ramallah that he had nominated Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to become Palestinian Prime Minister. Fatah sources said Mr. Abbas wanted to see what power the newly created post would carry before accepting the nomination. The PLO’s Central Council was scheduled to meet on 8 and 9 March in Ramallah, while the Palestinian Legislative Council would convene there on 10 March. Each had to vote on the matter. Some members of each body had already been barred by Israel from travelling to the West Bank on charges of “involvement in terrorist activity” and it was still not certain they would be allowed to meet. However, Prime Minister Sharon’s senior advisor, Ra'anan Gissin, said Israel was planning no further restrictions on their movement. (AFP, BBC, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

The IDF seized a band of territory in the northern Gaza Strip, effectively setting up a security zone in what the army called an open-ended campaign to thwart Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel. The IDF said in a statement that the new Gaza deployment “was part of an attempt to prevent the launching of Qassam rockets towards Israeli communities near the northern Gaza Strip.” Three such rockets had hit the southern Israeli town of Sderot the previous evening. “We will remain for as long as is necessary and if we decide to hold on to this territory for a long time, we will, Col. Yoel Strick, commander of Israel’s northern Gaza brigade, told Army Radio.Palestinian security sources said at least a dozen Israeli tanks and APCs backed by helicopter gunships had pushed some 2 km into the Gaza Strip from the northern Erez (Beit Hanoun) border crossing. The force had gone to the edge of the Jabalya refugee camp and the town of Beit Hanoun, establishing an armoured triangle of observation posts and roadblocks that put some 10,000 Palestinians under Israeli guns. A 16-year-old Palestinian had been shot dead during a clash between the IDF and stone-throwing youths in the refugee camp. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

According to reports, Israeli soldiers shot dead three Palestinian gunmen who had opened fire on an Israeli convoy on the road to the “Netzarim” settlement. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack. In the West Bank, two Palestinian gunmen entered the “Kiryat Arba” settlement, east of Hebron, dressed as religious Jews and openly armed like many settlers. They opened fire and threw grenades, killing a husband and wife in their house before being shot dead themselves. Another eight people were wounded, four of them soldiers. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack. Two other Hamas members were shot dead by IDF soldiers shortly afterwards as they attempted to infiltrate the nearby “Negohot” settlement in an apparently coordinated operation that left no Israeli casualties. The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) claimed responsibility for an attempted attack on the “Hamra” settlement in the northern West Bank, which claimed only the life of the 18-year-old gunman from the Beit Fourik refugee camp, near Nablus. (AFP, AP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen said in a statement: “I am deeply distressed and saddened by the loss of life in the Jabalya refugee camp and by the indiscriminate and excessive use of force by the Israeli military in densely populated residential areas.” “With each succeeding attack and counter-attack, the will to peace is weakened, and the prospect of a just solution to the conflict made ever more tenuous,” Mr. Hansen added. (AFP, UNRWA Press Release PAL/1936)

8

Israeli attack helicopters fired several rockets and blew up a car in Gaza carrying one of Hamas’ political leaders, Ibrahim Al-Maqadma, killing him and three of his bodyguards. Mr. Maqadma was the most senior Hamas member killed by Israel in the current intifada. The attack also left 10 schoolchildren and a bodyguard wounded. A statement issued by the Hamas military wing and endorsed by its political leadership said their priority was “to target Zionist political leaders.” (AFP, AP, Reuters)

In his speech before the PLO Central Council (PCC) , Chairman Arafat nominated Mr. Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), Secretary-General of the PLO Executive Committee, for the post of Prime Minister, a nomination that received the backing of the PCC. (DPR)

According to the media, an unarmed 23-year-old Palestinian was killed and five others wounded by IDF fire on in the reoccupied area of Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, as the soldiers in tanks and APCs opened fire at dozens of young men who threw stones at them. Another Palestinian who had been seriously injured the day before during protests against the Israeli reoccupation of the area died from his wounds at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. (AFP, Comtex News Network)

The IDF demolished a house in the village of Qabatiya, south of Jenin, belonging to the head of Islamic Jihad in Jenin, who it said was closely involved in the planning of the suicide bombing at the Umm al-Fahm junction on 18 September 2002. (www.idf.il)

9

The PLO Central Council ended two days of deliberations in Ramallah. In the closing statement read by the PCC Chairman Salim Zanoun, the Council stressed the Palestinians’ wish for a peaceful settlement of the conflict with Israel based on full Israeli withdrawal from all the occupied territories, and for an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital. The statement condemned terrorism in general and called on the Palestinian political and military groups “not to attack civilians inside Israel.” It called on Israel to resume negotiations with the Palestinians in order to reach a final and comprehensive peaceful settlement, stressing that “Israeli security cannot be achieved through military means,” and that “there will be no security with occupation.” The PCC also discussed a proposed constitution for the future Palestinian State and national unity talks, including an initiative by Egypt to freeze for one year Palestinian military attacks against Israelis in order to give peace talks a chance. (DPA)

Prime Minister Sharon welcomed the nomination of Mahmoud Abbas to the position of PA Prime Minister. Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told Israeli Public Radio: “He is a responsible man, he has the seriousness required of the job, as well as clear positions and intentions.” (AFP)

Ten Palestinians were wounded in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, after clashes broke out between soldiers and stone-throwers angry at the destruction of crops, Palestinian medics said. In the south, an Israeli officer was seriously wounded when a Palestinian sniper opened fire on IDF troops near the “Gadid” settlement, just outside the “Gush Katif” settlement block, an IDF spokesman said, adding that the gunman had escaped. After the incident, Israeli troops demolished eight buildings they believed the sniper had used as cover in order to carry out the attack. In the same area, three Palestinians were wounded in the Khan Yunis refugee camp, and another three, including a woman and a child, were wounded by shrapnel in Rafah, as an Israeli tank shell landed near their home, medics said. (AFP, Ha’aretz, www.idf.il)

The IDF demolished three houses, among them those of a Hamas militant who had attacked the “Kiryat Arba” settlement and the suicide bomber who had killed 16 people when he blew himself up aboard a bus in Haifa on 5 March. (AFP)

A Palestinian shepherd was killed near Tulkarm when he stepped on ordnance, Palestinian security officials said. (AFP)

Voice of Israel reported that Prime Minister Sharon would instruct the security establishment to present as soon as possible requests to expel the families of terrorists. The Prime Minister reportedly said this in the cabinet meeting after a discussion of a proposal by Minister of Housing and Construction Efi Eytam. Attorney-General Elyakim Rubinstein said that under certain circumstances it was possible to transfer Palestinians, members of families supporting terror, from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip. (BBC Monitoring International Reports)

10

The Palestinian Council approved the new position of Prime Minister, with 74 out of its 88 members participating in the session at Chairman Arafat’s compound in Ramallah. Ten more members took part via video conference from Gaza City, as Israel prevented them from travelling to the West Bank, claiming they had been involved in violent activities. Chairman Arafat opened the session with an hour-long speech, in which he said that Israel’s military strikes against Palestinians amounted to “state terrorism” and that Israel was sabotaging peace efforts. He also said he opposed attacks on civilians. He called on the international community to stop the coming war against Iraq, which would “wreck the security of the whole region.” After the speech, legislators approved the creation of the position of Prime Minister by a vote of 64 to 3, with 4 abstentions. Later in the day, the Council began debating and voting item by item on the 10-page draft bill of 26 proposed amendments to the Basic Law, or de facto Constitution, which would define the Prime Minister’s mandate. The draft said the Prime Minister would report to Chairman Arafat, who had the right to dismiss him. Chairman Arafat remained the commander of the Palestinian security forces, while the Prime Minister would be responsible for public order, “supervis[e] the work of the Ministers” and chair weekly Cabinet sessions. The Prime Minister had five weeks from the day of his election to form a Cabinet. After a second reading, the bill would go to Chairman Arafat for approval, before being sent back to the Council for a third reading. Azmi Al-Shuaibi, a Council deputy from the Fida group and member of the Council’s legal and political committees, said that among the 26 proposed changes was a call for the new Prime Minister to take charge of the police and the powerful preventive security, while Chairman Arafat would retain authority over the intelligence service and national security forces, the PA’s equivalent of an army. He said that another proposal gave the head of the Palestinian Authority the power to dismiss the Prime Minister and appoint a replacement. (AFP, AP, IBA, Reuters)

Creating the Prime Minister’s post “will not change anything to our national reality and is a game with the Zionist and American aggressors,” said Ismail Haniyeh, a senior political leader of Hamas from Gaza. “The intifada will intensify and will be very difficult to subdue because it is the people’s choice. The issues we are facing do not require creating any position,” he told AFP, “We need to end the occupation.” Mohammad Al-Hindi, an Islamic Jihad leader, said that the move would not solve Palestinian problems or curb the uprising. “This step is useless so long as the occupation lasts. The most important thing is to find ways of protecting our nation and supporting the intifada,” he told AFP. “The Israeli aggression is intensifying and we must get our priorities straight,” Mr. Hindi said, adding that “Islamic Jihad does not reject the personality of Abu Mazen or anyone else but our objection is to the political programme.” (AFP)

In an interview with Israeli Army Radio,UN Special Coordinator Terje Rød-Larsen said: “The new Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen should be fully empowered to go back to the negotiating table and start negotiations [with Israel] with 100 per cent authorization from the legitimate Palestinian organ… So far, there are reasons for applauding the Palestinian leadership for deciding to appoint a Prime Minister and also for applauding Chairman Arafat’s proposal of Abu Mazen who is … a credible candidate who has proved his commitment to peaceful reconciliation with Israel.” (Ha’aretz)

Israeli troops withdrew from a 10 sq. km area of the northern Gaza Strip around the towns of Beit Lahia, Beit Hanoun, the Jabalya refugee camp and Bidwe village. On 7 March, the IDF had effectively set up a security zone there which it said was aimed at preventing Hamas' rocket attacks on southern Israel. At the time, IDF commanders had said the reoccupation was open-ended. The pullback came despite the firing of four Qassam rockets on the Israeli town of Sderot the day before. (AFP, AP, Reuters)

The IDF blew up the apartment in Hebron of the second Hamas militant who had attacked the “Kiryat Arba” settlement on 7 March. The explosion caused major damage to the rest of the building. (AFP)

Palestinian gunmen shot dead an Israeli and wounded four others, one of them seriously, in Hebron. Reports said gunmen had opened fire on settlers who had been travelling from the settlement of “Kiryat Arba” to the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi). The IDF sent in bulldozers after the incident to destroy the building used by the gunmen for cover. Before tearing down the structure, the soldiers called on all residents to leave. In a separate incident, the IDF killed two Palestinians who had attempted to approach the “Kfar Darom” settlement in the Gaza Strip overnight, apparently to place pipe bombs that were later found in their backpacks. (AFP, IBA, DPA, Ha’aretz, The Jerusalem Post, Reuters)

The following press release was issued by UNRWA:

(UNRWA press release HQ/G/02/2003 of 10 March 2003)

Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and on the Golan Heights received three times more in housing subsidies from the Government than other Israelis, according to a report published by Israel’s regional councils. A total of 180 farming settlements, of which about 30 were in the Golan Heights, had alone received US$60 million, or 54 per cent of all subsidies awarded by the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture to Israeli farmers over the past year, the report said. The farming subsidies did not include aid to urban West Bank settlements. A resident of a farming settlement received on average a housing subsidy of $850, compared with the average $260 given to rural inhabitants in Israel. (AFP)

Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the transfer of NIS 36 million of PA money currently held by Israel to repair damage to the water purification and sewage flow systems in the West Bank. According to Mr. Netanyahu, this amount did not fully compensate Israel for the debts owed to it by the PA and there were plans to take further steps to compensate Israel in the future. According to Ha’aretz,the new Finance Minister had opted to invest the money in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, ostensibly to improve the quality of life for the settlers living there. (Ha’aretz)

11

US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the US was looking forward to “being able to work with an empowered, credible Prime Minister on the Palestinian side in order to implement this vision of two States,” adding that restructuring the Palestinian leadership was only one of the reforms necessary to move forward on the Road Map. “The change is not the change of structure,” Mr. Boucher said. “The change that needs to be undertaken is a change of empowerment of Palestinian institutions so that we have credible institutions that we can work with.” (DPA)

A large number of IDF troops were deployed in Hebron. Six wanted Palestinian men were arrested, some of them Hamas activists. The IDF was checking if they had any connection to the latest shooting attack in the city, claimed by both the PFLP and Hamas, in which an IDF soldier was killed on 10 March. (Ha’aretz)

A 34-year-old Palestinian, Rateb Toubji, was shot and injured inside his house when Israeli troops fired indiscriminately at houses north-west of the Gaza Strip town of Rafah, Palestinian sources said. The IDF dynamited a two-storey house in Seilat al-Harithieh, near Jenin, belonging to Ghaleb Jaradat and two of his sons, rendering 17 people homeless. Israeli soldiers also demolished the family home of Anis Jeredat, 23, also near Jenin, after ordering the 12 people who lived there to leave. The army also raided several towns in the West Bank and detained at least 10 citizens. (Albawaba.com)

12

An Israeli soldier was killed and another wounded in exchanges of fire in the village of Saida, north-east of Tulkarm, as the IDF hunted for wanted militants. Palestinian witnesses said that an armed Islamic Jihad member had been killed in a firefight. Five wanted Palestinians were arrested in Saida, where a curfew was imposed during the IDF operation. In Ramallah, the IDF arrested senior Tanzim member Mahmoud Hasib, who the army said was involved in attacks in the Ramallah area, in which Israelis were killed. Twelve other wanted Palestinians had been arrested earlier during IDF operations in the West Bank. (Ha’aretz)

A Birzeit University poll showed that the living conditions of the Palestinians had deteriorated, with 77 per cent of families having a per capita income of less than two dollars a day. The poll also showed increasing concern among Palestinians over security and crime, after police stations had been wrecked by Israeli bombings and Israeli forces reoccupying most of the West Bank. Seventy-one per cent of respondents said they would go to their family for support if they were caught in a feud with another family and 53 per cent said they would turn to their families rather than the police if they were personally assaulted. Family support would also be the first recourse for 41 per cent of those questioned to obtain financial assistance to meet their living needs, the poll said, showing also a growing dependency on United Nations and aid agencies, especially in the Gaza Strip. The poll was carried out among 1,314 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with a margin of error of 3 per cent. (AFP)

13

Five Palestinian militants, most of them Hamas members, were killed by Israeli special forces in a raid on their hideout in the village of Tammun, between Jenin and Nablus. (AFP, AP, Reuters)

Israeli troops arrested at least 18 Palestinians in overnight raids in the West Bank. Among those arrested were two PFLP militants allegedly planning an attack on a settlement in the northern West Bank. Most of the arrests took place in the village of Saida, near Tulkarm, where a Palestinian and an Israeli soldier had earlier been killed in an exchange of fire. IDF troops also demolished two houses in the village belonging to two militants involved in the 12 March killing of an Israel soldier there. (AFP, Comtex News Network, DPA)

Israeli bulldozers demolished three Palestinian houses in the Area C village of Al-Walajah, near Bethlehem, on the grounds that they had been built without authorization. (AFP)

Israeli forces backed by a helicopter gunship mistakenly shot and killed two Israelis they believed to be Palestinian gunmen, the IDF said. The incident took place in the West Bank, in the hills near the “Pnei Hever” settlement, about 5 km south-east of Hebron. Israeli forces were scouring the area because of intelligence warnings that Palestinians were planning an attack there, the army said in a statement. The military expressed regret for the killings and said it was investigating. According to Ha’aretz,the two Israelis killed were security guards who kept watch over an antenna used for research and development on a hilltop in the area and had pulled off to the side of the road to make coffee. It had been initially reported that Palestinian gunmen disguised as Israeli soldiers had been responsible for the shooting. (AP, Comtex News Network, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Chairman Arafat delayed signing the bill establishing the position of PA Prime Minister, asking for changes to be made in the legislation. These changes included retaining the President’s right to convene the Cabinet and to attend Cabinet meetings. A meeting of the Palestinian Council to vote on the proposed changes was scheduled to take place on 17 March, said Council Speaker Ahmed Qurei. (AP, www.albawaba.com)

Some 1,945 Palestinians had been killed since the intifada erupted in late September 2000, according to an Israeli defence establishment report quoted by Ha’aretz. Of those killed, 365 people (18 per cent) had nothing to do with terrorist activity, the daily said. They were either children under the age of 16 (130, or 7 per cent) or adults, many of them women and elderly people (235, or 11 per cent). The casualty figures, which were not published officially, were lower than those compiled by the Palestinian organizations and human rights groups, Ha’aretz noted. According to the report, 441 of those killed were Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists (about 22 per cent), 324 were Fatah and Tanzim activists (about 17 per cent), 329 belonged to the PA security forces (about 17 per cent) and 69 (4 per cent) were from groups such as the PFLP, DFLP, Abu Mussa’s Palestine National Liberation Movement and Ahmed Jibril’s PFLP-General Command. Some 417, or 22 per cent, of those killed were not identified with any group but were suspected by the security establishment of being involved in terrorism. Military sources said it was not clear in all the cases that the civilian casualties had been killed by Israeli fire, and some might have been hit by Palestinian fire during exchanges of gunfire. Commenting on the number of children killed, the sources said in some cases they were youths throwing fire bombs. A few children who had died were involved in using firearms. In any case, a security source was quoted as saying that “there is no justification for the death of Palestinians under the age of 16, even if they were throwing Molotov cocktails. These cases require investigation.” (Comtex News Network, DPA, Ha’aretz)

US Secretary of State Powell, speaking to a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, said the nomination of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) as Palestinian Prime Minister had brought a “new dynamic” into play and expressed the hope that “the new dynamic of a Prime Minister with real authority [would] allow us to move forward.” Referring to the lack of progress up to now, he said: “The principal problem has been the continuing violence and terrorism that has come from the Palestinian side directed against the State of Israel. In response the State of Israel has not been able to do some of the things that I would have liked to see Israel do to move the process along.” Secretary Powell also noted that the US standing in the region would have improved and it would have garnered more support for the US policy on Iraq had more progress been achieved vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (DPA, Reuters)

A statement by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) expressed alarm and dismay at the increasing number of civilians being killed or injured in terrorist attacks, as well as in Israeli military operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and called on both sides to protect the lives of civilians, Ha’aretz reported. The statement stressed that indiscriminate attacks and acts of reprisal against civilians and their property were strictly prohibited by international humanitarian law. “The recent military operations, particularly in the Gaza Strip, the bomb attack in Haifa and other acts of violence claimed lives and inflicted immense suffering on Palestinian and Israeli civilians. Even children, women and elderly people were not spared,” Ha’aretz quoted the statement as saying. In carrying out military operations, it was imperative to take all necessary precautions to protect civilians and their property, and avoid damaging medical personnel, vehicles and facilities, so they could fulfil their humanitarian mission, the statement stressed. The ICRC reiterated its call to “all those concerned to respect the rules and principles of international law in any circumstances” and said it would continue with its humanitarian work in close cooperation with the Palestine Red Crescent Society and Magen David Adom. (Comtex News Network, Ha’aretz)

14

Israeli troops, backed by tanks and helicopter gunships, raided a house in the Jenin refugee camp, where they shot dead at least five wanted Palestinian militants. The IDF said they had found weapons, ammunition clips, Israeli army uniforms and ammunition belts in the house. Four of the men killed were Islamic Jihad members and one was a member of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Palestinian sources said. (AFP, AP, Comtex News Network, Reuters)

In response to the new killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces, PA Minister Saeb Erakat urged the international community “to intervene immediately in order to prevent Israel from continuing to exploit the crisis in Iraq to carry out its aggressive plans in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.” (Reuters)

In remarks from the White House Rose Garden, with Secretary of State Powell on his side, President Bush said the Road Map for Middle East peace would be given to the Palestinians and the Israelis “immediately upon confirmation” of a Palestinian Prime Minister with “real authority.” He also said that the Government of Israel, “as the terror threat is removed and security improves, must take concrete steps to support the emergence of a viable and credible Palestinian State, and to work as quickly as possible toward a final status agreement,” adding that “as progress is made toward peace, settlement activity in the occupied territories must end.” “Once this Road Map is delivered we will expect and welcome contributions from the Israelis and the Palestinians that will advance true peace. We will urge them to discuss the Road Map with one another. The time has come to move beyond entrenched positions and to take concrete actions to achieve peace,” the President said, and noted the United States' and his personal commitment to implementing the Road Map, which he mentioned had been developed in close cooperation with Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations. (AP, DPA, Reuters, www.whitehouse.gov)

The following two statements were issued by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

(UN Press ReleaseSG/SM/8634-PAL/1938 of 14 March 2003)
(UN Press Release SG/SM/8635-PAL/1939 of 14 March 2003)

“We basically see eye to eye with President Bush on the importance of the Palestinian Prime Minister,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yonatan Peled said, adding: “Once there is a new Palestinian premier and once he begins taking action, then the Road Map is definitely something which we plan to discuss.” (AFP)

Referring to the mistaken killing by the IDF of two Israeli security guards near Hebron on 13 March, Labour MK Danny Yatom said the incident showed that “there may have been an exaggerated use of fire.” “We’ve said for a long time that the firing orders are too lax,” said B’Tselem spokesman Lior Yavne, adding that “the soldiers see suspicious figures, fire first and ask questions later.” Mr. Yavne noted that dozens of unarmed Palestinians had been killed by Israeli army fire in the past 29 months of fighting, including those driving or walking near Israeli army checkpoints. Maj. Sharon Feingold, an IDF spokeswoman, said soldiers had been on high alert at the time that the incident happened, because of specific warnings about gunmen in the area. “This was a tragic mistake, as in other incidents in which innocent people are killed on either side,” she said. (AP)

The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation and the Government of Germany signed a €40 million aid agreement for 2003. According to Minister Nabil Sha’ath, the money would go to complete projects in wastewater and solid waste treatment in the Ramallah area, to create jobs by financing infrastructure projects, as well as to build schools and youth centres, among other projects. (The Jerusalem Times)

15

A PLO Executive Committee statement welcomed President Bush’s remarks of the previous day, saying the US commitment to the Road Map, without any modifications, was a “step in the right direction.” Chairman Arafat’s adviser Nabil Abu Rudeineh, however, said: “[President] Bush has so far said nothing about the implementation of the Road Map. Anything short of that will not yield any results. It is not enough.” PA Local Government Minister Saeb Erakat said it was “time to turn the political vision of Mr. Bush into reality on the ground.” (AFP, Palestine Media Centre)

The Israeli military authorities banned Palestinian men aged 15 to 35 from leaving the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The ban was open-ended and could be linked to the anticipated US-led strike on Iraq. Following the ban, 100 Palestinians were turned back at the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. “This is a new escalation in Israel’s aggressive policy against the Palestinian people, and we can expect other repressive measures as the war in Iraq is nearing,” said PA Minister Saeb Erakat. Israeli military sources told AFP that the Rafah border had been closed to Egyptians rather than Palestinians for “security reasons,” but did not elaborate. (AFP)

The World Health Organisation (WHO), the Palestine Red Crescent Society, Israel’s Physicians for Human Rights and 15 other organizations called upon the Government of Israel to ensure that its military respects the neutrality of all health personnel, services and property in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, saying attacks on them were increasing. Already 25 health workers had been killed and 419 injured during the intifada. The medical groups said that Israel was obliged as a signatory to the Fourth Geneva Convention to allow protected and unhindered access for all health workers operating in the Occupied Territory. “Israeli military attacks on health workers are on the increase. Numerous appeals and protests to the Israeli authorities at the highest levels over the past two years have come to nothing,” the joint statement said, adding that “what is more disturbing is the lack of accountability within the Israeli military towards such actions. To date, no soldier has been tried when medical personnel have been killed or injured.” (AFP,www.pchrgaza.org )

16

Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old United States college student working as a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement, was killed in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, run over by an IDF bulldozer while trying to stop it from demolishing a Palestinian house. At least one Palestinian was also killed. Ms. Corrie was a student at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, from which she would have graduated this year. She died from injuries to the head and legs, said Dr. Ali Moussa, the Al-Najar Hospital administrator. Mr. Greg Schnabel, from Chicago, said: “She was standing in front of Dr. Samir Nasrallah’s house to protect it. The bulldozer was some 30 metres away from her. She was wearing a fluorescent orange jacket and was plainly visible. The bulldozer approached but she stood her ground. Then it pushed up a pile of dirt beneath her feet. She struggled to stay on top of the mound ... she stepped back, the bulldozer continued and sand started covering her legs and she was gradually buried up to her waist. We were shouting to the soldiers as she tried to pull herself out but she got sucked under the blade. The blade went over her body and the bulldozer stopped when she was completely underneath. Finally it withdrew, but without lifting the blade, dragging it over her once more,” said Mr. Schnabel. “This is a regrettable accident,” said Capt. Jacob Dallal, an IDF spokesman, adding: “We are dealing with a group of protesters who were acting very irresponsibly, putting everyone in danger.” Several Palestinians gathered at the site, and troops opened fire, killing one Palestinian. The IDF had no comment on that report. While declining to condemn the killing, the US State Department said it “deeply regret[ted]” the death of Rachel Corrie, which it called “tragic,” and offered its sincere condolences to her family. “We have been in contact with the Israeli Government and have called on the Government of Israel and the Israel Defence Forces to conduct an immediate and full investigation into the circumstances of this death,” said Louis Fintor, a Department spokesman. “We again call on the Israel Defence Forces to undertake all possible measures to avoid harm to civilians,” he added. A day earlier, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher had called on Israel “to take all appropriate precautions to prevent the death and injury of innocent civilians and damage to civilian and humanitarian infrastructure.” “The demolition of civilian structures deprives Palestinians of shelter and the ability to peacefully earn a livelihood, exacerbates the humanitarian situation inside the Palestinian areas and makes more difficult the critical challenge of bringing an end to violence and a restoration of calm,” he had said. (AFP, AP, Ha’aretz)

Ahmad Al-Najar, a 43-year-old Palestinian, was killed by IDF gunfire in Rafah on the Israeli-controlled border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Mr. Najar was unarmed when he was shot in the chest by Israeli soldiers posted on the border. (AFP)

Israel sealed off the Occupied Palestinian Territory “due to warnings of terrorist attacks” during the holiday of Purim, an IDF statement said. Early in the day the army had turned back more than 10,000 workers from the Gaza Strip who were trying to go to their jobs in Israel. (AFP, www.idf.il)

Israel’s response to the Road Map omitted all mention of an independent Palestinian State, replacing it instead with the term “certain attributes of sovereignty,” Ha’aretz reported. Israel was also of the view that the term “independent” required clarification and any such State must be credible and “law-abiding.” The Israeli response said progress beyond the first stage of the plan would be “conditioned upon the complete cessation of violence and terrorism, full disarmament of terrorist organizations, their capabilities and infrastructure, the complete collection of illegal weapons and the emergence of a new and different [Palestinian] leadership.” (DPA)

Secretary of State Colin Powell said the US was certain to invite the new Palestinian Prime Minister to Washington after assuming office. “We’re hoping that he will be confirmed ... we hope he will be invested with real power,” Mr. Powell told Fox News,adding: “I’m sure at some point in the future he will be welcome.” (AFP)

“We affirm a vision of a Middle East peace in which two States, Israel and Palestine, will live side by side in peace, security, and freedom. We welcome the fact that the Road Map designed to implement this vision will soon be delivered to Palestinians and Israelis, upon the confirmation of an empowered Palestinian Prime Minister. We would welcome the appointment of a Palestinian Prime Minister with sufficient authority to put an end to terrorism and consolidate necessary reforms. We shall look to the parties to work constructively together,” the US, British and Spanish leaders said in a joint communiqué entitled “Statement of the Atlantic Summit: Commitment to Transatlantic Solidarity” after talks in the Portuguese Azores Islands. “I think the appointment of Abu Mazen gives us the right partner to take the Middle East peace process forward,” Prime Minister Blair told a press conference after the talks. “All of us will work to make sure that that vision of the Middle East, two States – Israel confident of its security, a Palestinian State that is viable – comes and is made a reality.” Earlier, Prime Minister Aznar had said the leaders had “agreed to boost the Middle East peace process,” which must be accompanied with “all security guarantees.” (AFP, www.whitehouse.gov)

17

The Palestinian Council convened in Ramallah to ratify a new version of the Basic Law specifying the role of the Palestinian Authority Prime Minister, after the law had passed two readings with a large majority. The Council adjourned after voting on a new amendment stating that a Cabinet formed by a future Prime Minister would have to be presented to Chairman Arafat. The amendment gathered 42 votes in favour, to 10 against and the rest abstentions, and thus failed to obtain the required two-thirds majority. Council Speaker Ahmed Qurei said the debate would resume the following day. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

Before the Palestinian Council meeting, Israeli troops arrested Hossam Khader, a Council member from Fatah, in his home in the Balata refugee camp, on the eastern outskirts of Nablus. Relatives told DPA that Mr. Khader, 41, was at his home when an army unit raided the camp, opening fire at his and neighbouring houses, where two young girls were lightly injured. An IDF spokesman added that a total of 21 members of Islamic Jihad and Hamas had been arrested overnight in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Thirteen Palestinians had been arrested in the Hebron region, Palestinian security officials said. An IDF statement the next day said Mr. Khader was “considered to be an extremist and a supporter of the armed struggle in the current conflict” and had “funded and directed various terror attacks by Tanzim terrorists.” The IDF said Mr. Khader’s offices in the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, where his constituency was, “served as a command post from which terror acts were directed, including the shooting toward army posts on Mount Grizim,” which overlooks Nablus and on which the village of Burin is located. (AFP, DPA)

Two Palestinians belonging to the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, aged 18 and 20, were killed and three injured in an explosion in the village of Saida, near Tulkarm. Members of the group blamed the explosion on the IDF, without giving further details. (AFP)

Israeli troops killed 11 Palestinians, including a 4-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy, in raids on the Gaza Strip. In the first raid, some 30 armoured vehicles with bulldozers and infantry, backed up by helicopter gunships, advanced several hundred metres into the Nuseirat refugee camp, just south of Gaza City, from the nearby “Netzarim” settlement, in an attempt to arrest a senior Islamic Jihad leader, Muhammad Sa’afin. The Israeli advance met with stiff resistence from Palestinian fighters. The 4-year-old was killed by a bullet inside her house, and two other Palestinians were crushed to death under the rubble of a house dynamited by the IDF. An IDF statement said, however, that the two had been arrested and the house was empty when it was demolished. Four other Palestinians, including Mr. Sa’ afin, were killed in the raid, one of them aged 13. Seventeen were wounded, three of them listed in serious condition; one died later in the day. Several hours later, three more Palestinian men in their twenties were killed when shooting erupted during an Israeli raid on the town of Beit Lahia, on the northern edge of Gaza City. Palestinian officials said at least two of them were not armed. Israeli troops also rounded up all males aged between 15 and 50 in the grounds of a school and interrogated them. (AFP, Reuters)

Hours after the Gaza raids, Palestinian militants fired five Qassam rockets from the northern Gaza Strip into southern Israel, slightly damaging an empty bus parked in the town of Sderot. There were no injuries, Israeli security officials said. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

The following statement was issued by the Spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan:

(UN Press Release SG/SM/8639 of 17 March 2003)

In response to the killing of 11 Palestinians in Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip, US State Department spokeswoman Jo-Anne Prokopowicz said: “We urge the Israelis to consider the consequences of their actions and respect the dignity of Palestinian civilians, the vast majority of whom are not involved in terrorist violence.” Regarding the previous day’s killing by an IDF bulldozer of US citizen and International Solidarity Movement activist Rachel Corrie in Rafah, Ms. Prokopowicz said the United States “deeply regret[ted] this tragic death” and had called upon the Government of Israel and the IDF “to conduct an immediate and full investigation into the circumstances of this death.” She once again called on the IDF “to take all possible measures to avoid harm to civilians.” President Bush had talked about Ms. Corrie’s killing to Prime Minister Sharon who said his office would personally attend to the investigation, United States National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack said. (Reuters)

Yediot Aharonot reported that Israel planned to build a new security fence cutting off the Jordan Valley from the rest of the West Bank. The new fence, stretching some 300 km from the Gilboa hills overlooking the northern West Bank to the Hebron hills in the south, would mean the Palestinian Authority areas of the West Bank would be squeezed between the new eastern fence and the one already under construction on the border with Israel in the west. Prime Minister Sharon unexpectedly mentioned the plan during a visit with cabinet ministers to the fence under construction along Israel’s boundary with the West Bank. There was no official confirmation of the report. (AFP)

18

With a vote of 69 in favour to none against and one abstention, the Palestinian Council passed in its final reading the bill establishing the new post of Prime Minister. Chairman Arafat had earlier withdrawn a proposal that would have allowed him to retain control of the appointment of Cabinet members, but retained ultimate control over the security forces and peace talks. Council member Ibrahim Abu Najjah (Fatah) said Chairman Arafat had decided to give up his demand to participate in the forming of the Government but had been promised by Council members that he would be informed, as a courtesy, of the composition of a future Cabinet before it was presented to the Council for approval. Mr. Arafat would be free to offer advice to the Prime Minister but would not be able to impose his wishes, Mr. Abu Najjah noted. A few hours after the Council’s vote, Mr. Arafat signed the new bill. “The law is signed, ratified and will be published,” said Palestinian Authority Minister Saeb Erakat, adding: “That means the current Government is now a caretaker Government and the new Cabinet must be presented within three weeks” [two weeks according to some news agencies]. (AFP, AP, BBC, DPA, The Financial Times, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

A spokesman for the UK Prime Minister said Mr. Blair expected the US Administration to publish the Road Map for Middle East peace as early as today. The publication of the Road Map was timed to coincide with the announcement of a new Palestinian Prime Minister, the spokesman said. (Reuters)

US Secretary of State of State Powell, speaking to a small group of reporters, said the US “would have preferred to see even greater authority vested in a [Palestinian] Prime Minister but it is nevertheless a positive step.” Mr. Powell did not offer any definitive time for the release of the Road Map, sticking to President Bush’s position that this would happen once a Prime Minister with “real authority” had been confirmed. (Reuters)

IDF forces killed a senior Hamas military commander, Ali Alian, 27, in a shootout in the village of Marah Ragah, south of Bethlehem. A 27-year-old Israeli reserve soldier was also killed in the incident and another soldier was wounded. Israeli security sources said Mr. Alian led the military wing of Hamas in the southern West Bank and had organized suicide bombings in Israel, killing more than 30 Israelis. Soldiers arrested several relatives of Mr. Alian and of another Hamas militant, Yusef Al-Faki, and razed three houses belonging to the Al-Faki family before pulling out. A second Palestinian militant was shot dead by IDF troops in the village of Baqat al-Hatab, south-east of Qalqilya. Media reports named him as Nasser Asida, 27, a Hamas leader from the Askar refugee camp near Nablus. He was on Israel’s most-wanted list for allegedly masterminding several attacks on Israeli settlements, the IDF said. An 11-year-old boy was critically injured at a funeral in Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip, when mourners began shooting into the air, and Israeli troops opened fire from the nearby “Neve Dekalim” settlement. (AFP, AP, DPA, Reuters)

At a news conference organized by the Palestinian-Israeli Emergency Committee in East Jerusalem, Israeli and Palestinian activists voiced fears that the IDF might use a war on Iraq as a cover to expel segments of the Palestinian society from their homes. “Transfer may mean expulsion of Palestinians from the country altogether, or the transfer of populations from areas of the West Bank earmarked for annexation to other areas,” United States-Israeli activist Jeff Halper told reporters, noting that “these actions are likely to be spearheaded by militias of armed settlers.” He said such a move could be pushed forward by extreme right-wing elements in the Israeli Government and in the military. “We call on all people of good will to mobilize their organizations and networks, and to lobby their Governments to protect the Palestinian people, and we call on Israeli soldiers to respect international law and refuse illegal orders given by their commanders to harm the civilian population,” Mr. Halper said. Palestinian lawyer Mohammad Abu-Harthieh, from the Al-Haq organization, said the group would work during the expected war “to prevent the Palestinian people from believing the disinformation in the media and psychological war that could be launched by the Israeli army to scare them and make them flee from their villages.” An Israeli Government spokesman categorically denied that the Government had any such plans. (AFP)

19

Chairman Arafat formally nominated Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) to the newly established post of PA Prime Minister. Mr. Arafat sent a letter to Mr. Abbas asking him to accept the post. Later in the day, Mr. Arafat’s adviser Nabil Abu Rudeineh announced that Mr. Abbas had accepted and that all the constitutional procedures had been completed. “Consequently, we call on the members of the Quartet and the American Administration to apply as soon as possible the Road Map setting the steps toward creating a Palestinian State by 2005,” Mr. Abu Rudeineh added. Mr. Abbas would have three weeks to form a new PA Cabinet, with a two-week extension if he failed to do so within that time. DPA quoted sources close to Mr. Abbas as saying that he would probably appoint his ministers within days. (AFP, BBC, DPA)

The establishment of the post of Prime Minister and Mr. Abbas’s formal nomination was welcomed by, among others, President Bush, European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana and the Russian Foreign Ministry. White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer said it was “an important development” and “a sign of progress” welcomed by the President. Mr. Solana said Mr. Abbas could count on his “personal support and that of the whole of the EU” in the performance of the Prime Minister’s tasks under difficult circumstances. A Russian Foreign Ministry statement noted that the move would give “new impetus” to the restructuring of the Palestinian leadership and the resumption of the Middle East peace process. (DPA)

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Terje Rød-Larsen briefed the Security Council on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.” (UN News Service, UN Press release SC/7697 of 19 March 2003)

Israeli media reported that President Moshe Katsav had discussed a possible ceasefire with outgoing PA Interior Minister Hani Al-Hassan at a secret meeting in Jerusalem last week. Mr. Al-Hassan had proposed a deal whereby Israel would withdraw from Palestinian cities it had reoccupied, in return for PA action against militants. The two had also reportedly discussed ways to renew the peace process between the sides. The meeting had reportedly taken place with the knowledge of Prime Minister Sharon. (DPA)

A 50-year-old Jewish settler was shot dead by Palestinian gunmen between the settlements of “Mevo Dotan” and “Shaked,” some 10 km west of Jenin, in a roadside ambush claimed by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. (AFP, Ha’aretz)

20

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin called for an international conference on the Middle East, saying it was more relevant now than ever before. In an address to the French Senate, during a discussion on the Iraq war, Mr. de Villepin said it was “urgent to mobilize in a spirit of respect and dialogue” and “urgent to open a new political perspective to respond to the expectations of security by the Israeli people, to the need for justice by the Palestinian people.” “Anyone can see that our common duty in the Middle East is to avoid the escalation of hatred, intolerance and violence. That is the only way to break the spiral of hatred and confrontation,” Mr. de Villepin said. (AFP, DPA)

The Leipzig Book Fair opened to the public, with its Democracy Prize for 2003 going to an Israeli journalist, Amira Haas, praised by German human rights activist Jens Reich for “her fortitude and incredible personal courage.” Ms. Haas sent a message to the Fair conveying her thanks for the prize but saying that because of the increasingly tense situation in the Palestinian areas she felt it to be her journalistic duty to remain there. In her acceptance speech read by a friend, Ms. Haas said the prize was a reflection of concern and political engagement “towards the two peoples who are mired in increasingly terrible bloodshed.” (DPA)

The Palestinian Water Authority (PWA) said in a statement that the Israeli seizure of NIS36 million from frozen Palestinian Authority funds was illegal and contravened all signed agreements. This was the second time the Israeli Government had seized a similar amount from the frozen PA funds. The PWA statement said an Israeli claim that it needed the money to pay Israeli companies for treating Palestinian wastewater and sewage did not make any sense, as the two sides had agreed to cooperate in environmental matters, particularly in the water and wastewater areas, and a joint task force had been established for this purpose. The statement further rejected Israeli claims that the PA could not handle wastewater and sewage treatment any more, and said the Israeli reoccupation of the Palestinian cities and the closure had obstructed the functions of the Palestinian Authority offices and complicated their work. It cautioned that Israel intended to re-establish the so-called civil authority and might seize more Palestinian money in the future for the simplest reason. The PWA said Israel had intentionally obstructed the building of wastewater treatment plants in the Palestinian areas, suggesting instead joint stations between Palestinian villages or towns and Israeli settlements, which had been rejected by the PA. As a result, the donor countries, which planned to fund those plants, had suspended their projects. (The Jerusalem Times; see also 10 March above)

Two armed Palestinians attempted to infiltrate the “Morag” settlement in the south of the Gaza Strip. An IDF patrol spotted them on the edge of the settlement and opened fire, injuring one of them. Palestinian emergency workers carried off the wounded man as the army launched a search for the second man. (AFP)

21

Speaking after talks with Lebanese Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud, European Union Middle East peace envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos told journalists in Beirut that the United States was “ready to have the Road Map published within 10 days from now,” adding that its text would be the one agreed upon by the Quartet on 20 December 2002 in Washington and would not include any alterations. Meanwhile, Israel rejected a French proposal to convene an international conference on Middle East peace, Israel Radio reported. A senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official said Israel preferred that the US continued to lead the Middle East peace process and that there was no need for any other peace initiatives. (Ha’aretz, Reuters – see also 20 March above)

The European Union Presidency Conclusions, issued at the close of the two-day European Council meeting in Brussels, stated that “the Iraqi crisis makes it all the more imperative that the other problems of the region be tackled and resolved. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular remains a cause for concern.” The Road Map “must be published and implemented immediately, with parallel progress in the security, political and economic fields,” the European Union leaders said. They welcomed the appointment of Mahmoud Abbas as the first PA Prime Minister and said they would continue to support Palestinian reform. “Measures are required urgently to bring an end to the humanitarian tragedy in the Palestinian territories,” they further noted, while reiterating support for a “vision of two States living side by side in peace and security on the basis of 1967 borders.” (DPA, Reuters, http://www.eu2003.gr/en/articles/2003/3/21/2316)

The IDF announced that its forces had demolished a house in the village of Al-Duha, west of Bethlehem, belonging Mohammed Dar-Yassin, a Tanzim member, who was shot dead attempting to carry out a suicide bombing in the “ Efrat” settlement on 22 February 2002. (www.idf.il)

22

The IDF bulldozed a factory and its tanks fired on houses in Gaza City, while in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, Israeli soldiers moved 1 km into the Palestinian-controlled territory and destroyed a security post. The operations came after the army said it had discovered an explosive device weighing some 100 kg on a road leading to the “Netzarim” settlement, just south of Gaza City. A spokesman said the bomb, which was destroyed in a controlled explosion, was linked to a detonator in a nearby house. He said the army had demolished the house and adjacent buildings, which he said were used by Palestinian extremists. Four anti-tank missiles were also found in the same area, the army said. (AFP)

About 100 pacifists held a sit-in outside Prime Minister Sharon’s official residence at night as a tribute to United States activist Rachel Corrie, crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer on 16 March. The demonstrators also protested against the demolition of Palestinian houses by the IDF. (AFP)

23

Shortly after midnight, IDF tanks and bulldozers moved into Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, and started demolishing the house of 73-year-old Ibrahim al-Falit, allegedly causing the elderly man to suffer a heart attack. Palestinian medics said he died on his way to the hospital. The IDF had reportedly already razed farmland belonging to his family the day before. Later Israeli troops carried out an incursion deep into the Palestinian-controlled territory in the southern Gaza Strip between Rafah and Khan Yunis, opening fire on two Palestinian policemen and wounding one of them. (AFP)

Israeli troops arrested two wanted Palestinians in Jenin, two others near Ramallah and one in the southern Gaza Strip, the IDF said in a statement. (AFP)

Japan’s Foreign Ministry said in a special announcement it would provide an additional ¥500 billion (US$4.2 million) in food aid to Palestinians through UNRWA. Japan said last week that it would provide $5 million in humanitarian aid for refugees through the United Nations and would boost the amount if needed. The offer, along with another for Jordan, was part of Japanese efforts to help stabilize the Middle East, reported NHK. (AFP, Reuters, www.mofa.go.jp)

24

Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian teenager when they fired on stone-throwing youths in Jenin. Ahmed Al-Bahri, who Palestinian doctors estimated was about 14 years old, was hit by a bullet in the head and died instantly, the first person killed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 19 March, one of the longest lulls in months. Two other youths were moderately injured, the hospital said. The city has been under curfew for the past two days, after an Israeli force of some 40 armoured vehicles entered it early on 23 March in search of militants and weapons. An Israeli military official said the IDF had no information on the killing, but that there were three incidents where Palestinians were either injured or killed in Jenin during the day and the youth was probably hit in one of them. The IDF said it had shot a Palestinian who had thrown a firebomb at the soldier. “We treat firebombs as weapons in every sense of the word,” the spokesman said, adding that a second Palestinian was evacuated after a firebomb exploded in his hand, while a third and a fourth were shot when they tried to grab a machine-gun from an APC. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

The IDF dismantled an Israeli settlement outpost, the first time this had been done since the new Government took office on 28 February. Three structures making up the “Hill 26” outpost, just 100m from the “Kiryat Arba” settlement east of Hebron, were destroyed by bulldozers. An IDF statement said the High Court of Israel had ordered the outpost removed as it had been built on private Palestinian land. Following the submission of a petition by a Palestinian owner of the land, the High Court issued another order obliging those living in “Hill 26” to abide by the earlier order. The Israeli Public Radio said around 10 people were peacefully removed from the outpost, including members of the family of the settler killed there in January, although settlers returned only hours after the soldiers departed. A police officer was lightly wounded and two settlers arrested as forces tried to remove them again, this time by force. The IDF also arrested seven women who tried to return to the area and holed up in an abandoned bus on the hill, among them Elisheva Federman, the wife of "extremist settler" Noam Federman. Military sources cited by the radio said that “Outpost 26 would never be authorized as a permanent settlement.” (AFP, BBC, DPA, www.idf.il)

Israel’s Defence Ministry said it had drawn up a proposal to extend a security fence 20 km deeper into the West Bank than previously planned, to take in the “Ariel,” “Emmanuel” and “Kedumim” settlements. The Defence Ministry confirmed that under the plan a further 40,000 Jewish settlers and 3,000 Palestinians would live on the Israeli side of the fence. The original path of the fence had already been extended several kilometres to the east to include the “Alfei Menashe” settlement near Qalqilya. “The purpose of the fence is to prevent terror attacks being perpetrated against Israelis,” one government official said, declining further comment. The Defence Ministry has recently completed two alignments of the fence – a western one parallel to the Green Line and an eastern one, severing Palestinian population concentrations in the West Bank from the Jordan Valley. The Palestinians described the new plan as an Israeli attempt to grab more land while the world’s eyes were on the war in Iraq. “The Israelis want to destroy the Road Map and replace it with an Israeli road map by imposing a new reality on the ground with settlements and occupation,” Palestinian Authority Local Government Minister Saeb Erakat told AFPin Gaza City. Mr. Erakat called the fence plan a “great challenge” for the Quartet, which “is going to show whether the Quartet is serious. We’re asking them to prevent Israel from putting (the fence plan) into place.” (AFP, Reuters)

The IDF arrested 33 suspected Palestinian militants in overnight raids, with 13 of the suspects detained in Dura, near Hebron, and 20 others in Bethlehem. The IDF also closed and bricked up three Islamic institutions in Hebron and Dura, “suspected of links to terrorism,” an army spokesman said. Some of the Palestinians working for the institutions were reportedly arrested. The three institutions targeted were affiliated with Dawa, a charity linked to Hamas and declared illegal by Israeli authorities in June 2002, the IDF said. Hussein Abu Hadid, an official for the Muslim Youth Committee which had two offices closed, denied his group had any links to Hamas. Representatives of the Islamic Charitable Organization, which had one office closed, were not immediately available for comment. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Reuters, www.idf.il)

The Central Intelligence Agency was reported as establishing a special department to be responsible for the Road Map implementation. The CIA officers will coordinate supervision and monitoring of the implementation of the Road Map, and track both sides’ performance. One team within the CIA department will focus on the reorganization of the Palestinian security services. (Ha’aretz)

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, during a speech to the Knesset, called for renewed peace efforts with the emerging Palestinian leadership headed by the new Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas. “Israel wants peace and hopes to find real partners for negotiations in this sense among the new Palestinian leadership,” said Mr. Shalom, adding that “Israel gives its agreement to the plan by President Bush” to establish an independent Palestinian State by 2005. (AFP)

25

Israeli undercover units shot dead four Palestinians, including a 10-year-old girl, during an ambush in Bethlehem. According to the witnesses, plainclothes Israelis fired on a car in the town, killing three men inside. The girl was killed when the Israelis shot at a second car in the mistaken belief militants were inside. Israel Radio said the first car had contained members of Hamas who had opened fire before being killed by Israeli forces. It said another Palestinian car had come into the area moments after the first, and the IDF, believing they were about to be attacked, shot at it, killing the 10-year-old girl inside. Hospital officials said another 15-year-old girl in the car was wounded by shrapnel. Israel Radio said the male driver had also been hurt. In a separate incident, Israeli soldiers had shot dead a 14-year-old Palestinian boy during clashes with stone-throwers in Jenin. An IDF spokesman said soldiers had shot two youths after they tried to climb on top of a tank to grab its mounted machine gun. (AFP, Reuters)

The IDF had arrested 19 suspected Palestinian militants in the West Bank overnight, a military spokesman said. Among them were two members of Fatah, arrested in Ramallah in a car with a European Union registration number, the spokesman said. Also, the local leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Nidal Nagnaguieh, 32, was seized in a house in the Jenin refugee camp, Palestinian security sources said. Israeli Public Radioadded that another two Palestinians involved in planning a suicide bombing had been arrested north of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. (AFP)

An Israeli military court sentenced a Palestinian militant to life in prison for involvement in the lynching of two Israeli soldiers by a Palestinian mob in the West Bank in 2000, an IDF spokesman said. He told Reuters that Mahmoud Matzleh, a member of Islamic Jihad, was also convicted of having ordered a number of attacks, including a suicide bombing that killed two women. Two other Islamic Jihad militants tried with him received life sentences, including for other attacks near Jerusalem that killed five Israelis, he said. (Reuters)

Israeli Army Radio reported that Israeli National Security Adviser Ephraim Halevy had drafted a new plan for a negotiated end to the conflict with the Palestinians, and had presented it to Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz. The plan, entitled “Profile of the Israeli diplomatic initiative,” was reportedly developed to further the peace process, as well as to deflect international pressure should the Road Map fail. According to the plan, Israel will support the creation of a Palestinian State in return for the Palestinian abandonment of the “right of return” for refugees and an agreement to end the conflict. Ha’aretz also reported that Mr. Mofaz had recently put together a strategic team including the heads of the military, intelligence agencies and the National Security Council, to discuss Israel’s goals in the negotiations with the Palestinians. (Ha’aretz)

Prime Minister Tony Blair, in the Prime Minister’s Questions at the House of Commons before leaving for a Camp David meeting with President Bush, declared that he and Mr. Bush believed it vital to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, calling it the one issue that most divides the pan-Muslim world from the West. Asked about British efforts to secure an independent Palestinian State and justice for Palestinians, Mr. Blair responded, “This will be a central part of British foreign policy,” adding that he knew there was “a great deal of cynicism and scepticism within the Muslim and Arab world about whether statements made recently about the publication of the Road Map and about the desire to take this process forward [were] simply statements that [would] be made in the context of military action in Iraq and then forgotten,” Mr. Blair said. “They will not be forgotten. They will be taken forward, and they will be done.” (Ha’aretz)

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw told the BBC World Service he understood Arab concern about what he described as “injustice against the Palestinians.” “There is a real concern too that the West has been guilty of double standards – on the one hand saying the United Nations Security Council resolutions on Iraq must be implemented; on the other hand, sometimes appearing rather quixotic over the implementation of resolutions about Israel and Palestine.” Asked if he would plead guilty to double standards, Mr. Straw said: “To a degree yes, and we’re going to deal with it.” During a separate press conference, Mr. Straw said the plan now was that the Road Map would “be delivered once there [was] a full team of ministers, which has been established by the Palestinian Authority and approved by the Palestinian Legislative Council.” Mr. Straw added that there had been “good reasons” for each of a series of delays in publishing the Road Map, but that this would be the “last delay.” (AFP, Ha’aretz)

A report issued by accounting firm Ernst & Young said the Palestinian human rights group LAW had misused or could not account for US$3.63 million out of $9.6 million in international contributions over a period from September 1997 to August 2002. This indicated “considerable mismanagement within LAW,” a European Union spokeswoman told Reuters, adding that “having reviewed the draft report the donors are examining the financial and legal implications and in the meantime are freezing all contributions.” In a statement, LAW said it had informed donors in September 2002 that its previous management had diverted $1.5 million in contributions and it had launched an internal inquiry. “We strongly denounce the actions of those responsible for any previous mismanagement,” LAW said. Khader Shkeirat, LAW’s former director who resigned in September 2002, told Reuters that no money had been stolen but that some funds had been used in ways not sanctioned in its agreement with donors. The LAW statement said it feared the donor backlash could undermine its efforts to protect Palestinians from alleged abuses by the IDF. (Reuters)

26

The IDF shot dead a Palestinian who tried to infiltrate the Gaza Strip settlement of “Morag.” IDF troops spotted two Palestinians who tried to enter the settlement, and opened fire. One of the men was killed and another apparently managed to get away. (Ha’aretz)

A group of about 26 Israeli settlers moved back into the “Hill 26” outpost in Hebron, two days after they had been evacuated from the site by the Civil Administration and police. (Ha’aretz; see 24 March above, as well as 20 January and 3 February in previous issues)

An IDF officer and an Israeli policeman were lightly injured in clashes with settlers in the centre of Hebron. The troops were called to a site near the “Avraham Avinu” settlement, after settlers reportedly vandalized a vacant Palestinian building. After the police and soldiers welded the building’s doors closed to keep vandals out, settlers punctured the tire of an army vehicle, then hurled eggs at the troops and officers. Scuffles broke out, in which the IDF officer and the policeman were lightly injured. (Ha’aretz)

A meeting of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, among other things on its agenda, considered the request of the Commission of the African Union to join the Committee as an observer. The Committee welcomed the decision of the African Union to participate in its work as an observer and approved the request. The Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations, Amb. Amadou Kébé, addressed the Committee. The Committee, established by the General Assembly in November 1975, is currently composed of 24 members and 25 observers and is chaired by Amb. Papa Louis Fall, the Permanent Representative of Senegal to the United Nations. (UN Press release GA/PAL/910 of 26 March 2003)

A group of protesters blocked Fifth Avenue in New York. The protesters, chained together by handcuffs, wore signs reading “Witness to Israeli war crimes” and chanted “Occupation is a crime, from Iraq to Palestine!” A mock Caterpillar bulldozer with an Israeli flag was set up to draw attention to the death of a United States volunteer crushed by an IDF bulldozer on 16 March in Rafah. The protesters were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and obstruction of government administration, police said. (AP, Reuters)

27

John Dugard, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, said: “The [separation] wall is being used as a way of expanding Israel’s territory. Israel responds that this is a temporary security measure but I think the reality is that this is a form of creeping annexation of Palestinian territory. I have seen portions of that wall, and it makes the old Berlin Wall look very small. It has gone largely unnoticed in the West, but this is de facto annexation.” Mr. Dugard, speaking in Geneva shortly before presenting to the Commission on Human Rights his report on the human rights situation in the OPT, also said: “In this age of anti-terrorism measures, Israel has succeeded in gaining tremendous sympathy for its argument that it is engaged in defensive action in response to Palestinian suicide bombers, and I think one must acknowledge that Israel does have real security concerns. But the action taken by the Israelis has been disproportionate. I point to the fact that there has been considerable loss of life ... This has often been justified as ‘collateral action.’ But collateral deaths have become the rule rather than the exception of the present conflict.” (AP, Reuters)

Prime Minister Blair, speaking at a joint press conference with President Bush, said: “…we had an excellent discussion of the Middle East, and we both share a complete determination to move this forward. It is indeed often overlooked that President Bush is the first United States President publicly to commit himself to a two-State solution, an Israel confident of its security and a viable Palestinian State. And I welcome the decision announced recently to publish the Road Map as soon as the confirmation of the new Palestinian Prime Minister is properly administered.” (AP)

A pre-dawn Israeli incursion into the northern Gaza Strip left three Palestinians dead, at least two of them policemen, and 16 others injured, two seriously, with half of the wounded members of the security forces. Israeli forces entered Beit Hanoun after receiving intelligence reports about attacks planned by Palestinian militants there, Israel Radiosaid. As the troops came under fire from a police station and other locations in the town, an Israeli helicopter fired two missiles at the police station. Palestinian hospital officials said Israeli soldiers kept medical teams out of the area, and Palestinian ambulances came under fire three times while trying to evacuate the wounded and dead. Palestinian witnesses said 10 Israeli tanks remained stationed in the residential area of Beit Hanoun. The troops left Beit Hanoun several hours later, taking with them three wanted Palestinians the IDF said had fired Qassam rockets at Israel. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

Two Palestinian-fired Qassam rockets landed in the Israeli town of Sderot, causing no injuries or property damage. (Ha’aretz)

Eight explosive devices were discovered by IDF and safely detonated in the Jenin area. In the village of Bani Naim, near Hebron, Israeli troops sealed off the offices of an Islamic charity affiliated with Hamas. (AFP, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

The IDF overnight arrested 23 Palestinians in the West Bank. One of them was Shadi Sukeya, an Islamic Jihad member, detained in Jenin refugee camp. Israel Line quoted Ha’aretz as saying that the militant was hiding in the Red Cross offices. According to Associated Press, IDF said its troops raided Jenin offices of the International Solidarity Movement and seized a wanted member of Islamic Jihad there. The group said it did not know the man was wanted. The IDF said two women with the group – one British and the other Canadian – tried to hide the man but the group’s spokesman, Tom Wallace, said the two group members were not aware of the man’s identity. (AP, Israel Line, Reuters)

28

Israeli soldiers fatally shot an armed Palestinian and injured another overnight in the Tulkarm refugee camp in the northern West Bank, Israel Radio reported. The two were reported to be members of Fatah and appeared on Israel’s list of wanted militants. Witnesses said troops had entered the Tulkarm refugee camp in jeeps and APCs shortly after midnight and had searched several houses. They said soldiers had fired from one of the houses towards the street, killing an unarmed man passing by and moderately wounding another. Separately, the IDF raided the town of Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, demolishing the house of a gunman killed in an attack on a settlement in 2002 and arresting three men. A firefight erupted and four Palestinians – two armed men and two civilians – were wounded. The IDF said soldiers had found weapons and explosives in the house targeted for demolition. (AFP, DPA)

Palestinian sources reported that large numbers of Israeli police and soldiers took up position in East Jerusalem in the early hours of the morning, with the largest concentration of Israeli security personnel next to the entrances to the Old City and close to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. The police had erected roadblocks along the road leading to the Rockefeller Museum and the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem, and were searching every vehicle entering. Palestinians also said police were inspecting the identity cards of all those entering the compound, and were preventing men under 40 from attending prayers there. Some 9,000 people attended the prayers, and police prevented a further 200 from entering the mosque. One person was arrested. (Ha’aretz)

29

Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian throwing stones at a tank in the Askar refugee camp in Nablus, and seriously injured another. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, speaking on Israeli radio during a visit to the US, said Israel was willing to open new talks with the Palestinian Government once the new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas formed his Cabinet. Speaking later on to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Mr. Shalom said Mr. Abbas would find Israel as a “true partner”on his side if he “really fights terror.” Mr. Shalom also said he was against linking the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with the war on Iraq in talks on peace in the Middle East. (DPA, the Jerusalem Post)

Prime Minister of Sweden Goran Persson said he planned to visit the region on 13 and 14 April 2003 for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders. “The change in the Palestinian Authority is making it possible to resume a meaningful dialogue for the first time in several years,” Mr. Persson said in a speech, adding that the trip depended on whether the new Palestinian leadership would actually take office. (Reuters)

30

A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up in a cafe in the Israeli town of Netanya, killing himself and wounding some 58 Israelis, two of them seriously. The Al-Quds Brigades, an armed wing of Islamic Jihad, took responsibility for the attack. Its statement said the attack was a gift for the embattled people of Iraq, and to mark the Arab Israeli Land Day, an annual protest against discrimination faced by the State’s Arab minority. The IDF Spokesperson’s Office announced that 10 soldiers had been wounded in the bombing, one of them seriously and two moderately. United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Terje Rød-Larsen condemned the attack, calling it “cowardly and outrageous.” In a direct appeal to the Palestinian leadership and people, Mr. Rød-Larsen asked that they bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice and “act immediately to completely de-legitimize these murderous acts that produce nothing but misery and fear.” (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, www.idf.il,UN News Service)

IDF soldiers opened fire on eight Palestinians who refused orders to stop when challenged by a patrol in a closed military zone near the “Netzarim” settlement south of Gaza City, killing one of them. Four Palestinians were arrested and three escaped, military sources said. A pair of binoculars and several mobile phones were found with the men. The IDF suspected the Palestinians of plotting attacks on army or settler convoys using a closed road leading to the “Karni” crossing point on the north-eastern border with Israel. Israeli military sources said two tanks had been blown up by roadside bombs in the same area in the past year, while several other large explosive charges were discovered there. (AFP)

Two armed Palestinians trying to infiltrate Israel from the Gaza Strip were surrounded and shot dead after a brief firefight with the IDF in an orchard at the Erez Kibbutz in Israel, south of Ashkelon. An IDF statement also said that its forces and Border Patrol sappers neutralized two explosive devices in the Erez Industrial Zone in the northern Gaza Strip. (AFP, Ha’aretz, www.idf.il)

According to a Yediot Aharonot report, military intelligence chief Gen. Aharon Zeevi told the Israeli Cabinet meeting that the first steps taken by the new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas “showed an authentic and positive desire for change.” In reaction to this statement, Prime Minister Sharon reportedly said: “The question is whether it is possible to progress with Abu Mazen to a phased political settlement, and we will watch to see that each of these phases is applied to the very end.” (AFP)

United States Secretary of State Powell, addressing AIPAC, said: “Today we have reached a hopeful moment, when progress may again be possible,” and that he was encouraged by the new Prime Minister’s powers. But he warned that the US Administration would be watching “very carefully” how Mr. Abbas exercised his authority, “which is so important for Palestinian hopes for better future.” Mr. Powell reiterated the promise by the US and UK to unveil the Road Map. “Israel has a clear obligation ... to diminish the daily humiliation of life under occupation,” Mr. Powell said, and “must put economic hope into Palestinian hearts.” Mr. Powell also said settlement activity by Israel was “inconsistent with President Bush’s two-State vision” and declared there must be “an end of violence as a political tool” against Israel. (AFP, Ha’aretz, www.state.gov)

Former Secretary of State James Baker said the Road Map should be implemented without conditions attached to it and urged President Bush to call a meeting of the parties to discuss it. He said the US-led war in Iraq would give President Bush “a wonderful opportunity to build a legacy for himself ... that is, to create a stable situation in the Middle East and resolve the ongoing dispute between Arabs and Israelis.” “We need to say, ‘This is the way to peace, here it [the Road Map] is,’ put it on the table, and then call a meeting of the parties,” he told ABC television. “There should be an end to terrorism, unconditionally. There should be an end to [Israeli] settlement activity, unconditionally,” Mr. Baker said, noting, “Don’t put conditions on it by saying, ‘Well, as we make progress on this or that or the other, then we move to these things’.” (AFP)

Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) held talks in Gaza with representatives of Palestinian factions. “During the meeting, Abu Mazen presented his own views concerning many issues related to the living circumstances of the Palestinian people,” Hamas spokesman Abdel Aziz Rantisi told reporters afterwards. “We also expressed our own views about the situation.” Mr. Rantisi said the meeting was not aimed at reaching any agreement. A Gaza leader of the DFLP said it was ready to join a new unity Government headed by Mr. Abbas. Islamic Jihad spokesman Mohammad Al-Hindi said the next day his movement’s insistence on not joining an Abbas-led Government was still valid. “But we met in order to discuss a national programme that will protect the interests of the Palestinian people and their intifada,” he said. The movement also announced it would step up attacks against Israel as a gesture of solidarity with Iraq. (AFP, DPA)

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Israeli media reported that the General Security Service had uncovered an explosives laboratory run by Islamic Jihad in the Israeli-Arab town of Jaljulya in northern Israel. Three men, believed to be Jihad members and receiving orders from a Jihad activist in Tulkarm, were arrested in connection with the discovery of the laboratory, reports said. (AFP, DPA)

Israeli troops arrested 20 Palestinians in the course of overnight operations in the West Bank, an IDF spokesman said, including two Islamic Jihad members: one in Ramallah and another in Tammun, a village some 10 km north-east of Nablus. (AFP)

Prime Minister Sharon told the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee that illegal settlements should not be allowed and that the outposts would be removed, without indicating when this would take place. (BBC World Service)

President Bush’s National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, addressing the AIPAC’s Annual Policy Conference, said the Road Map was not negotiable and that Israel must “play its part” to pave the way. Mr. Rice, who had asked that her remarks were be off-the-record to the news media, said of Israel and the Palestinians: “We expect their comments; it is not a matter of renegotiation. It can be commented on by the parties.” Ms. Rice also called on all Arab Governments to recognize Israel’s right to exist and said democratic reforms within the PA were “extremely important.” (AP, Ha’aretz)

A Palestinian teenager holding a toy gun was shot and lightly wounded in the hand by Border Police near the Olive Tree hotel, in the American Colony neighbourhood of Jerusalem. (The Jerusalem Post)

Secretary of State Powell met Israeli Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom in Washington. After the meeting, Mr. Shalom told reporters that Palestinian Prime Minister designate Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen) would need to take very strong measures against terror attacks during his first few months once in office. Mr. Shalom said that Israel agreed it would be “a positive step in the right direction” if Mr. Abbas would indeed agree to take the job, and that the Israeli Government would “do everything in order to contribute to the efforts that need[ed] to be taken against terror.” Should Mr. Abbas fail, progress in any peace talks with the Palestinians would not be possible, he added. With regard to peace initiatives, Mr. Shalom said that the Israelis were “adopting the vision of President Bush. And anything that will be a genuine, accurate reflection of this vision will be something that we will be able to work with,” he said. Mr. Shalom also met Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. President Bush took part in his meeting with Ms. Rice for about half an hour, diplomats said. (AFP, DPA, Ha’aretz, Reuters)

A statement by the Greek Presidency of the EU condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the suicide bombing in Netanya on 30 March, saying: “The Presidency is convinced that such actions undermine any peaceful resolution of this conflict and pose serious difficulty to the fulfilment of legitimate Palestinian national aspirations.” The statement also called for the “immediate and full implementation of the Quartet Road Map by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which will lead to a solution of two States living in internationally recognized borders with security and peace.” (AFP, full text at www.eu2003.gr)

In its annual report on human rights practices for Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the United States State Department said Israeli security forces had killed at least 990 Palestinians and injured 4,382 during the year. Israeli residents, meanwhile, had been subjected to terror attacks, which had killed 469 Israelis and injured 2,498, a sharp increase from the previous year, the report noted. The report said Israel had placed Palestinians in the West Bank under strict “internal closure” for the entire year, and had further restricted freedom of movement of Palestinians by imposing extended curfews on Palestinian towns or neighbourhoods, curfews which did not apply to Israeli settlers in the same areas. Israel’s overall human rights record in the Occupied Palestinian Territory remained poor and had worsened in several areas as it had continued to commit serious human rights abuses, the report said. (DPA, Ha’aretz,www.state.gov)


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